Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Grade Yourself on Your Personal Finances

Failing can be a part of life. That said, the most detrimental place to fail is your personal finances. Jerry Wade is known for stating, "You end up with what you end up with." Let's make a checklist of things that you can do to improve "what you end up with."

  1. Do you have an emergency fund. Unfortunately in life we have to expect the unexpected. The last thing that you want to do is get caught off guard needing to pull money from your investment accounts, high interest rate credit cards, etc. when something goes wrong or the market is already down. We recommend that you have an emergency fund with at least six months to a year's worth of expenses liquid.
  2. Know what's in your bank accounts. Overdrawing a checking account by just a few cents could result in a lot of expensive and unnecessary banking fees. Run your household finances like you would run that of a business.
  3. You don't understand the difference between a want and a need. One of the biggest impediments to getting your financial house in order is the inability to properly distinguish between a want and a need. When taken down to the most basic level, all of us have only a few primary needs: Food/water, clothing (not high-end designer clothing), shelter, transportation and health care - high-end cars, boats, luxurious vacation homes, etc. are a WANT, not a need.
  4. You don't know how much you spend. It's pretty simple, the amount that you save is the difference between how much you make and how much you spend. It is important for you to look at this and realize that if you aren't saving anything that you need to adjust your lifestyle to decrease your discretionary spending. Not saving should not be an option for anyone!
  5. Your tastes exceed your spending capabilities. Many individuals are first generation wealth and are fully aware that they can live on less expensive items than they do. If you are shopping at Byerly's instead of Sam's Club or Neimann Marcus instead of TJ Maxx, this may apply to you. If you are not saving due to this spending you, have some self-evaluation to conduct.
Investing Lesson: Hitting the reset button will likely take some self-analysis and some decision making but these are all decisions that will improve your personal financial report card. The more money that you spend now, the less money you will have in retirement, the longer you may have to work or both! That is the simple fact.

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